Blanton there if Orioles want him
The Phillies have made it clear that Joe Blanton is available in a potential trade, and the Orioles –who have shown by far the most interest in the right-hander—are weighing whether the veteran Blanton is worth taking a flier on, multiple sources told MLB.com Monday.
“He’s there if they want him,” a source said of Blanton’s availability to the Orioles, who have actively pursued all available starting pitching options under executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette.
But, so far, that search has come up dry and Baltimore’s best option may be Blanton. The 31-year-old has been heavily scouted by the Orioles and has gone 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA in his last three starts, pitching at least six innings in 10 consecutive games. Acquiring Blanton could help stabilize an Orioles rotation that has been woefully inconsistent. The Orioles are without their best starter, right-hander Jason Hammel, probably until September and Opening Day rotation arms Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz are currently in Triple-A after prolonged struggles at the Major League level.
The asking price for Blanton is less than other available arms and the Orioles –who are telling teams top prospects Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado are off the table – don’t have a lot of other trade chips in a market where numerous clubs are also seeking starting pitching.
The Phillies wouldn’t just give away Blanton, however, with one source saying the team would want a Major League-ready utility player or a prospect who could be a viable middle reliever. Duquette told MLB.com Friday that the club has received the most interest in its pitching depth, and the Orioles could certainly trade some of their bullpen arms, in the Major or Minor Leagues, if they decide on Blanton.
But how much of an upgrade would he be, and would Duquette be willing to trade for a pitcher who is only signed through this season? Blanton, who will be a free agent next year, is 8-9 with a 4.59 ERA in 20 starts. He has allowed 141 hits, 74 runs, 68 of were earned, over 133 1/3 innings. He is susceptible to the long ball, having allowed 22 homers but has one of the best walk-to-strikeout ratios in the Majors, with 115 strikeouts against 18 walks.
Signed to a three-year extension January 21, 2010, Blanton is making $8.5 million this season and the Orioles would presumably be on the hook for two months of that figure. The Cardinals and Blue Jays have also expressed interest in Blanton, according to an industry source, but the Orioles are the most interested team.